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date: 21 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Max Weber was an extremely important ethical thinker, as is suggested by the title of his most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Confronted by the perceived breakdown of universally accepted, religiously based ethical codes, he proposed a two-tier scheme of ethics: impersonal, professional, technically, and legally appropriate behavior in the public sphere of employment, alongside wide tolerance of “subjectivist” self-assertion in regard to (for example) religion and sexuality in the private sphere. This was a radically original scheme whose relevance to twenty-first-century circumstances is self-evident, though not to the many moral philosophers who appear to think that today’s ethical theory should still resemble the prescriptions of Kant or even Aristotle. The second part of the essay outlines a series of possible contemporary applications of Weberian ethics, as well as “neo-Weberian” modifications which the lapse of time since Weber’s death suggests.

Keywords: ethics, value, Protestant ethic, impersonal, amoral, subjective

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